Alright… it’s time. I gotta answer these once and for all.
On any given day, the DM’s in my Instagram account are uuuuuusually somewhere 50-100. PER DAY. And I can telllll you… it’s often the same. questions. over. and. over.
In fact I can usually anticipate exaaaactly what questions I’ll get in my DMs based on what stories or posts I share that day.
So I thought I’d do a little roundup of the top 10 questions I get in my DM’s and answer them all in one place. Once and for all!
First Things First…
The links below may be affiliate links where appropriate. This means that your purchase through these links may result in a few cents in payment to me, to support creating further resources like this one! That being said, I will never suggest supplies that I do not personally use and fully recommend.
Rather watch than read? No problem! You can watch me answer these questions in real-time (aaaaaand get to see Marge and Jimmy) in the video below.
So here we go. In no particular order.
Okay actually I lied, let’s get the #1 most asked question out of the way right off the bat.
1. What pen is that? What’s the best pen for beginners?
Haaaaaaaands down my #1 most asked questions. And I have a quick answer for both!
For “what pen is that?” – well, it really depends what pen I WAS using in that post you saw! But, I have an entire PDF guide of 50+ pages with clickable links to Amazon for allllllllll my favourite supplies.
And guess what it’s called…. “WHAT PEN IS THIS” Hahahaha.
You can find that at www.thehappyevercrafter.com/supplies. It’s FREE!
For “what’s the best pen for beginners?” – the quick answer is that I recommend a Tombow Fudenosuke hard tip to everyone. The longer answer is that it really depends, and I have a full post called… you guessed it….
“The best pens for beginner calligraphy”…. LOL. You can find that here.
Oh and while we’re at it, here’s one about the best paper, too!
2. How do I learn calligraphy?
Glad you asked! This one always makes me laugh because my entiiiiiiire feed and channel are basically about how to learn calligraphy.
But the short answer to this question is that I have a beginner course! AND IT’S FREE!
You can find it at www.showmeyourdrills.com.
In there I teach you from the veeeeery ground up. What supplies to get, how to hold the pen… and you get free worksheets and guides and videos and all the jazz. You also get to learn alongside other beginners which is SOOOO helpful when you start out!
If you don’t want to take the full course, I highly recommend checking out my YouTube Channel. I have an entire playlist dedicated to beginner calligraphy.
3. How do you film your Instagram and YouTube videos?
For Instagram, the short story is that I use my phone. I want quick and easy when it comes to Instagram, so I don’t use anything fancy. Even if it’s sped up or time-lapsed, it’s done with my iPhone.
I also use this tripod (it’s my favourite tripod that I’ve found).
I also use an app called Snapseed to edit photos, and an app called Ultralight to edit videos.
I have a video about exactly how I film and edit my Instagram stuff here.
For YouTube, it’s a bit more complicated. Here’s my setup. Different cameras, different lights, different tripods.
I have one camera facing ME and I have one a tripod that is above me and aimed at my hands. Then I have some LED lights I bought from a local store here in town. I knew NOTHING about lighting, so I just went to the store and asked the guy who is a professional what I was doing. He knew what I needed, I bought it, and set it up — here we are. I highly recommend asking a professional!
And lastly I have a RODE lavalier mic. It’s attached to my phone, and I use the Voice Notes app. I also have a backup shotgun mic that’s on top of my camera just in case the lavalier mic doesn’t get the sound super well.
It’s a work in progress. My set-up has definitely gotten better over the years!
4. These are two random ones, but I legit get these in my inbox every time I show my kitchen or my living room, so here we go. Where is your couch from? And what colour are your kitchen cabinets?
My couch is from Structube, it’s called the “Soft Modular Sofa,” and I don’t recommend it. They’re not a super high quality couch brand or anything, but it took forever to come in, and I just wouldn’t recommend it.
We’ve only had it for a few months and it’s already getting uncomfy and worn looking. It LOOKS nice, but it’s not our fave.
As for the kitchen… the upper cabinets are off white and the lower cabinets are a dark grey blue colour. They’re from a company called Kitchen Craft if you happen to live in Ottawa. We worked with Becks Interiors. The white is “Alabaster,” and the blue is “Starless”.
So funny that this is one of my most common questions. LOL.
5. How do you write uppercase letters? They’re hard.
Totally. They are definitely harder than lowercase letters. They don’t break down into basic strokes like minuscules. Truthfully, uppercase letters in modern calligraphy really just take practice and experimentation. I know that’s not everyone’s favourite answer cuz it requires work and not just a one-and-done solution, but it’s true.
I recommend learning some basics (for which I have an uppercase “majuscules” workbook & course here), and then starting to experiment and look at other people’s uppercase letters for inspiration.
If you’re at the “looking for inspo” phase, I actually have a free download of 15 styles of every single uppercase letter (you can find that here). You can take and trace and get some inspiration and try a bunch of different styles.
6. What bullet journal do you use? How is yours set up?
Okay I’m a unique bullet journaler. I don’t really even consider myself a bullet journaler. I use a journal that is blank when it arrives and I make it my own fully, but I don’t do the traditional bullet journal method. I read the book, did the whole thing, but it just didn’t work for me.
Mine is more like… a blank journal that I create my own templates in and turn it into a planner. I used to buy 50 planners each year and would get frustrated that none of them fully worked for me. I just couldn’t find THE PERFECT planner, so I made it myself. It’s deffffffinitely more work, but it’s artistic and creative work so I really enjoy it.
Basically I take a blank journal and set it up like a planner. I break it down by hour each day and use it as a planner (not a tracker).
And to answer the first question, mine is from Archer & Olive!
7. Are your cats siblings? Can we see more of your cats?
Omg I never meant to be a cat person we got the cats on suchhhhh a whim, and omg did I evvver underestimate how many cat lovers were in my audience. I get so many cat questions!
I honestly never planned to share anything about them. I didn’t want to be a weird cat person who oooooonly posted videos of her cats. But my followers on Instagram reeeeeeally love them.
Their names are Jimmy and Marge, and nope they’re not siblings. We just adopted them both at the same time! They haaaaaaated each other for that first day, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
They have two entirely different personalities… Jimmy is standoffish like 90% of the time, but the 10% of the time that he isn’t, he’s THEEEEEE cuddliest and he purrs sooo loudly. He also sometimes bites, but only love bites.It’s fine.
Marge is ALWAYS around me, making funny noises, and wanting to hang out. She also one time fully died by getting herself locked in the dryer overnight (it was off, but still). Ryan revived her by giving her CPR at four in the morning. True story, but that’s a story for another day.
8. How do you make paint pens not streaky?
Okay so I’ll start by saying that when you see pictures of projects using paint pens that don’t look streaky, like on Instagram, they probably ARE streaky — you just can’t tell. They’re probably edited. That includes mine.
By nature, streaks happen with that kind of tool. You’re filling in the lettering, and there are going to be streaks. It’s a handmade product though – it’s going to look handmade. It’s not going to look like a sticker, and it’s not going to look perfect. AND THAT IS TOTALLY FINE.
There are ways to get better at it and make the streaks BETTER. My tips:
– Use the biggest tip possible for the size of writing you’re doing. ie. don’t use a tiny little Sharpie to write a giant word and colour it in! Get the big tip Sharpie.
– Shake it REEEEALLY well, keep shaking it while you work, and always keep the tip saturated. Almost make yourself a pool to dip into.
– Don’t go over dry spots! Thicken as you go, always. You can’t do multiple coats – it’ll chip off and look way worse. With calligraphy, your downstrokes need to be thicker than your upstrokes. Do all of that as you go. Don’t write the whole word and then go back to thicken.
HACK: You can cut the paint pen open and use a brush. Or just use a brush and actual paint upfront if you’re REALLY worried about streaks.
The thing to note here is that streaks are normal, and they make your product look handmade, which is what people want if they’re hiring a handmade artist. Nobody gets up close to a sign and looks for streaks. (Within reason, of course. Do your best).
And, that if we’re talking windows like storefronts, the side you work on will always look streaky but the outside doesn’t!!! So it’s not as big of a deal as you think.
By the way at the time of this post (April 2021), I’m in the process of writing a signage course… if you’re interested in stuff like this get on the waitlist at www.signingupcourse.com
I’ve also got a post about how to do big windows with paint pens– find that here.
9. How did you get started with calligraphy?
I had a full-time job working in project management for construction (I studied interior design in school). I actually really liked my job and wasn’t planning on leaving it. I did a lot of AutoCAD, floor plans, stuff like that, and I loved it. But it wasn’t super creative. I am a creative person by nature, so I knew I needed a hobby.
I had always been drawn to calligraphy. I loved handwriting as a kid, so it all tied in. I decided to take a calligraphy workshop locally with a bunch of girlfriends and became completely obsessed. I started practicing obsessively and got pretty good at it. People started asking me to do work for them, so I started an Instagram account. And people started asking me to teach them, and it all snowballed from there. This also started in 2015. Six years later, 2021, here we are. Answering questions on YouTube, still teaching, still going strong.
I have the longer version of this story as well as some of my tips for getting started yourself here.
10. How do I start a business/how do you know when it’s time to pursue calligraphy full-time/how do you price your products & services?
Okay I grouped these questions together because they’re all biz related… so it’s kinda a 3 in 1.
Part 1: How do you start a business?
You just do it, man. There’s not one rule you have to follow. You just do it. There are tons of courses and books out there. The important thing is just to go for it.
When I started, I knew NO-THING about running a business. It’s just one foot in front of the other. Take the next right step. Figure things out as you go.
Logistically, though, I’d recommend doing a couple of things.
Secure a business name – First, figure out a name. Then look up whether it’s available as a domain (you can check on sites like godaddy.com) and on social media platforms. If it is, snag all those. If it’s not available, switch it up because someone else already has those.
Research business licenses in your area – Then Google “business license (state/province)”, and do what it tells you to do. Sounds scary but it’s realistically probably just like a $30 fee and an online form. At least that’s what it was for me. Then you’re up and running, baby!
Part 2: How do you know when it’s time to pursue calligraphy full time?
This is a super personal question and one that only you can decide for yourself. I’m a big proponent of keeping a side hustle until you can replace your full-time income. Nothing worse than desperation. I also know people who are a “jump first and the parachute will appear” kind of people who thrive on chaos and that pressure makes them perform. But I’m a “pack the parachute one year in advance, and then keep checking on it and repacking it every week until you feel extra super confident it’s gonna open” kind of person. I like to have a plan and feel secure.
Long story short, it’s a super personal decision. If you thrive in chaos, you may not need to be as secure or prepared as I prefer to be. It’s totally up to you. There is NOTHING wrong with doing it part-time. Like — for as long as you can.
Part 3: How do you price your products & services?
Pricing is not a topic I can cover in such a quick post, but I have so many pricing resources. Let’s start with this one: Pricing for Beginners.
I’ll also mention that if you’re a calligrapher or letterer, I have a full pricing course. You can find that at www.panicfreepricing.com
And that’s a wrap!
WHEW! Okay! Want me to make a part 2 of this post and answer something ELSE for you?
Leave your question in the comments!
And finally, your dad joke…
I have a question for people who take the bus…
Are you supposed to give it back?